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Mine to crave, p.6

Mine to Crave, page 6

 part  #4 of  Mine Series

 

Mine to Crave
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  “Thank you.”

  Her soft words stopped him at the threshold. “What was I supposed to do? Walk away and just let you keep bleeding out in the alley?”

  “It’s not like that hasn’t happened before.”

  He grabbed the door frame. Held it too tightly. It won’t happen again.

  “I’ll find a way to repay you,” Jasmine promised. “I always repay my debts.”

  He spared her a brief glance. “Good…because I always collect on the debts owed to me.” He figured that she deserved that warning.

  Then, because the bed behind her looked too good—no, she looked too good, wearing his shirt, waiting by his bed, Drake left her. He shut the door firmly, and headed down the hallway. Even though he was bone weary, Drake knew sleep wasn’t going to come easily for him.

  It never did. The dead haunted him too much.

  ***

  “You seem to be missing someone…”

  Wayne tensed when he saw his boss stride toward him. The dawn Vegas sky was streaked with lines of red and gold. They were meeting in the middle of nowhere, a spot that his GPS hadn’t been able to find, and Wayne was nervous as all hell.

  This place is too much like a body dump site.

  No one would find remains out here in the desert. If the animals left any remains.

  “Jasmine Bennett was supposed to be with you.”

  Wayne didn’t try to hide the truth. He knew better than to lie to this man. “She’s with Drake Archer.”

  He expected fury. He expected the boss to take out a gun and shoot him right there. According to the stories he’d heard, the guy had done that before. Wayne tried to brace for impact.

  Instead, the man smiled. “Is she now?”

  Wayne nodded. Sweat drenched his forehead.

  “Good. Then keep an eye on her until she leaves him, and when she does…bring her in to me.”

  What?

  The guy turned on his heel and headed back toward the limo that waited for him.

  “That’s it?” Wayne called after the man. “You’re not—you’re not angry?”

  The boss stopped. “Why would I be angry? I told Jasmine to get close to Archer. Seems like she’s done her job very well.”

  He was so lost. “But…but my job was to bring her in. You hired me—”

  “Your job was to make sure she didn’t run from me. She’s not running…not yet. She’s doing exactly as I ordered.” He turned his head. The sky was on fire behind him. “You’re my security, in case Jasmine tries to go soft on this one.”

  Soft? The report he’d read on the woman sure didn’t indicate any “soft” tendencies.

  “Jasmine is important to me. I don’t want to lose her talents.”

  Oh, damn. Talk about misreading a situation. When he was hired to tail someone, it was usually because that someone had screwed up.

  Only I’m the one who screwed up this one. He should’ve asked more questions, instead of just taking the money.

  But he liked money.

  “You don’t want Jasmine hurt?” Wayne asked carefully. There was, ahem, no need to mention that she’d already been hurt. The boss didn’t need to know about the little knife incident. He hadn’t meant to slice her.

  Okay, he had.

  “I don’t want to lose her,” the boss said again, but then his face hardened. “But I would see her dead before I’d let her betray me.”

  And that’s where I come in. “That’s why you hired me. In case she turns on you.” It would have been helpful to know this earlier.

  “You’re a hunter. She’s your prey…the instant she runs.”

  He realized the truth. “You thought she’d run last night!” No wonder he’d gotten the call to close in. He’d thought the order meant he needed to detain Jasmine, but—

  “Jasmine has a…special connection with Archer. I was worried it might prove to be a weakness for her. I sent you after her because if she wasn’t doing her part, I wanted her brought to me.” The boss waved his hand. “She’s not here…so she’s still in play.”

  Wayne had no clue what was going on. Above my pay grade.

  “Jasmine had her orders. She’ll make contact with me in twenty-four hours, and if she doesn’t, then…well, everything will change for her. She won’t have my protection any longer—and she will feel the force of my fury.”

  Wayne edged back a bit. He sure didn’t want any of the boss’s fury to be turned on him. I’m not telling him about the knife. What he doesn’t know…

  “Better see about that nose,” the boss ordered with a wave of his hand. “I’ve heard Archer can throw a killer punch.”

  The man truly had eyes and ears everywhere. But he doesn’t know I sliced, Jasmine. Not yet. Talk about a lucky break.

  Wayne stood there, at that body dump site, frozen, until the boss vanished in his fancy limo.

  If I’m the security to make sure Jasmine doesn’t screw him over…then who the hell is watching me?

  Because the twist in his gut told Wayne that the boss was all about contingency plans. Screw him over…and you die.

  Wayne hurried back to his car. He knew better than to screw over that man.

  Chapter Four

  “Rise and shine, princess…”

  Jasmine’s eyes flew open and she jerked upright, a gasp shaking from her as her hands immediately flew out toward the rickety nightstand and the weapon that had better be there—

  This isn’t my motel room.

  Her hand slammed into a lamp and it went crashing to the floor.

  “Interesting wake-up method you have there,” that deep, rumbling, very male voice told her.

  Her gaze shot toward the doorway. Drake stood there, one sardonic blond brow lifted, a faint smirk quirking those sexy lips of his.

  No, not sexy. They were hard. They were cruel. They were—

  She focused on his eyes even as her hands snatched up the covers. “Did you ever think of knocking politely?”

  “My house. My bedroom.” He shrugged. “Besides, it’s getting close to noon. I was afraid you were dead in here.”

  Noon? She never slept to noon. Not ever.

  “I’ve got some clothes for you.” He glanced down at the bag in his right hand. Wait, that was—

  “My bag.” She scrambled from the bed, pulling the covers with her. She kept them around her, toga style, and Jasmine ignored the ache in her side.

  “I had one of my men collect your things from that little motel.”

  Did she look stupid? “You mean you told the guy to rifle through my stuff.”

  He lifted the bag toward her. “I thought you might like some non-bloodstained clothes to wear. And some shoes. Guess I was wrong.”

  She hurried across the room and grabbed the small duffel bag.

  But he reached out before she could retreat from him, and his fingers wrapped around her wrist. “You keep a gun in your nightstand drawer.”

  And she was betting that gun wasn’t tucked securely in her bag. “A lady traveling alone has to protect herself.” Especially when she was dodging trouble.

  “It’s time,” Drake told her.

  Did he realize that his thumb was slowly rubbing against her inner wrist? Because she did, and that teasing contact was making her all kinds of nervous. “Time for what?”

  “The truth. You put on your clothes, then you come to the den and you tell me everything I want to know.”

  Not going to happen. “Or what?” He’d already said he wasn’t planning to call the cops on her. So as far as she was concerned, he had zero leverage.

  The smirk was gone from his face. He looked…cold then. Hard. Dangerous.

  Don’t fall for the bad boys, don’t!

  “You don’t want me for an enemy, Jasmine.”

  “I thought that you already were my enemy. Didn’t realize I had a choice in the matter.”

  “I don’t want to hurt you.”

  Okay, now that scared her. Her chin started to lift.

&nb
sp; “But one way or another, you will be answering my questions, and if you lie to me…that will be a mistake I punish you for.”

  Then he freed her wrist. Only she felt like he was still touching her. Her skin was hot and sensitive.

  “You’ve got five minutes to dress.”

  “And you sure like giving orders.”

  He flashed her a wide grin. Wow. The man had a really nice, sexy smile.

  “Time’s ticking…”

  He shut the door.

  Her gaze darted around the room. There had to be a way out of there. A way to escape Drake…

  Because that man wouldn’t like her secrets. She knew because Jasmine hated them, too.

  ***

  Drake was waiting in the garage. He stood in the back, keeping his body hidden as Jasmine snuck inside. He almost smiled. Did she even realize how predictable she was? She’d ducked out the back of the house, circumventing his security—a nice touch—but he knew the woman would need a ride for her escape off his property.

  His garage had, of course, been her most likely destination. So he hadn’t bothered waiting inside the house for her.

  He’d just made himself comfortable out there.

  Her shoulders were hunched as she made her way to the line of cars. Which one would she pick? The Corvette? The Lincoln?

  His lips firmed. Oh, hell, no, the woman was not planning to take his Porsche.

  She was.

  She slipped inside the car, then disappeared beneath the dash. He stalked toward her as anger pumped in his blood. “If you mess up those wires, I’ll—”

  Her head shot up, and she screamed.

  He took that opportunity to haul her out of his Porsche. That car was his favorite, his favorite in Vegas, anyway.

  “I didn’t plan on us talking out here,” he murmured as he held her. “Princess, you missed the den by about fifty feet.”

  She jerked against his hold. He didn’t let her go.

  She still smelled like vanilla.

  He still wanted a taste.

  “I didn’t miss your dang den. It took me five minutes to get out of that house.” She sounded disgruntled enough that he wanted to smile. Again.

  Then he remembered that she’d been intent on wrecking his baby. “You don’t touch the wires, got it? You don’t damage the Porsche.”

  Jasmine rolled her eyes at him. “I’ve been hot wiring rides since I was fifteen. Your precious little baby wasn’t in any danger from me.” Her eyes narrowed and she appeared insulted. “I’m a professional.”

  “Are you now?” Ah, so there was secret number one. “A…professional.”

  Her cheeks flushed a dark red but her eyes—they seemed to darken even more with…pain? “I’m not a whore.” She pulled away from him and started heading back toward the house.

  He stared after her a moment, aware that he felt…shame. “I didn’t think you were a whore. I’m…sorry.” His words hadn’t come out right. He’d meant to taunt her, not accuse her of—shit.

  She glanced back at him, frowning. The light hit her hair. Rolled over her skin. Made the woman seem to glow. “Did you almost choke as you just said those words? Because it sounded like that apology got stuck in your throat.”

  It had, a little bit.

  She sighed. “You like trouble, don’t you?”

  “No, I don’t.”

  Jasmine gave a slow shake of her head. “Then you need to just take me out of this place. Let me get away from you, and then we can both never look back.”

  He took his time closing the distance between them. Mostly because he was enjoying the view of her in the sunlight. “You made a mistake, you know.”

  “Seems like I’ve made a few of those,” she groused.

  Dammit, she kept making him want to smile. What in the hell was up with that? “You interest me.”

  Surprise rippled across her face. “You make me sound like some kind of weird science project. You know, when it comes to talking with ladies, you rather suck at it. How, how do you have so many chicks throwing themselves at you?”

  That should be obvious. “I’m rich.”

  “And sexy.” She glared at him. Like he was the one who’d committed a crime. “Bad boy appeal.”

  Uh, okay.

  She pointed at him. “You need to keep your hands off me.”

  He wanted his hands all over her. “Why is that?”

  “Because I don’t want to get involved with you. It would be a mistake, for us both.”

  He took her hand. Yes, he was touching her. He liked doing it, and she didn’t pull away. Because she liked his touch?

  They didn’t speak again until they were near his house. Drake nodded to a guard who was watching them. “Did he even see you slip out?” Drake asked her, curious because the man had his narrowed gaze on Jasmine.

  “No, I think he was taking a potty break.”

  Laughter broke from Drake.

  “I had to pick my moment,” she confessed.

  He tugged her into the house. Shut the door. Instead of heading to the den, he took Jasmine into his study.

  Once they were there, Jasmine glanced down at her hand. “You can let go now. You’ve got me.”

  Slowly, he dropped his hold on her. “Do you…hurt?”

  He should’ve asked her that before.

  Again, surprise flashed across her face. What? Had no one ever asked the woman how she felt?

  “Just a little ache,” Jasmine said as she walked around the study, poking and gazing at different things. “Nothing to worry about. I’ve had plenty worse.”

  Drake didn’t like hearing that news. “How many times have you been stitched up?” He eased into the chair behind his desk. His hands flattened on the wooden surface.

  “Maybe three times. Everyone has accidents.”

  Bullshit. “That was no accident last night.”

  She put down the hourglass that she’d been examining “You’re right. That was my mistake. I should’ve moved faster.” Her breath expelled on a sigh. “So there are accidents and there are…non-accidents.”

  Locking his jaw, he motioned to the leather chair in front of his desk.

  She didn’t sit.

  The woman just liked to be difficult.

  “Who are you working for?” Drake asked her.

  “Myself?” Yes, she made it sound like a question, but then she nodded, as if she’d reached an important decision. “From here on out,” Jasmine said softly, “I am.”

  She was making his head ache. “Who sent you to the Arrow?”

  “I came on my own. I figured I had a better shot at getting to you there. Your house here…” She waved her hand. “It was too isolated.”

  “No, you knew I kept my files there and you wanted access to them.”

  Her fingers tapped against a bronze statue. The woman was touching everything. But me. “If you know all the answers, why ask the questions?”

  Because he didn’t have the answers for the big questions. “Tell me who sent you.”

  “So we can both make his hit list? I don’t think so.”

  She looked too confident and in control. The woman should have the sense to fear him. She didn’t. “Why aren’t you afraid of what I’ll do to you?”

  “Bones can be broken, flesh can be cut. Been there, done that.”

  He shot to his feet.

  “I survived those non-accidents,” she continued, her voice quiet, calm. “So I figure I’ll survive whatever you do to me, too.”

  His hands had clenched at his sides. “Who hurt you?”

  “Lists are long…and boring. The past is over. Let’s just stick to the here and now.” She turned her back. Gazed up at a painting of wild horses on the wall. “This is hideous, by the way. Why would you ever pick this out to hang it up in your study?”

  “I didn’t. It came with the house.” She was trying to distract him. Nice.

  He was ready to distract her, too. So he threw out the question that he knew would get a respo
nse. “Who interested you the most in that photo?”

  He saw her shoulders tighten. “What photo?”

  Drake sighed. “Each time you lie to me, I’ll expect something from you. An apology, of sorts.”

  She turned to face him. “I don’t understand.”

  Drake closed in on her. Pinned her between him and that freakishly ugly painting. “You just lied. Make it up to me.”

  “H-how?”

  “Kiss me.” He didn’t think she would. He just—

  She leaned up on her toes and pressed a quick kiss to his lips.

  “No, princess, not like that.” He tipped up her chin and he took her mouth. Deep, thorough. Rough. “My way.”

  Her breath rasped out against him.

  “Every time you lie to me,” Drake told her, aware that his voice had thickened, “you pay for it.”

  Her gaze searched his. “I probably should confess…I lie a lot.”

  “Then you’ll pay…a lot.”

  Her hands pressed to his chest. But she didn’t push him away. Instead, it was more as if she were trying to get a feel for him. Testing his strength.

  “Who sent you to the Arrow? To me?”

  “You’re a man with enemies. Maybe you can figure that part out yourself.”

  “What’s your role? Seduction?”

 
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